Data breaches, exposures and leaks in the U.S. are increasing, according to new data released by the Identity Theft Resource Center. Cybercriminals are accelerating their attacks, said James E. Lee, chief operating officer for the nonprofit that collects information on publicly reported data breaches.
“Consumers are caught in the cross-fire between the identity thieves and businesses and government agencies trying to fight off these increasingly sophisticated, frequent assaults,” Lee said.
In the past three years, breaches and exposures declined from the 1,632 record number of data compromises in 2017. But cybercriminals came back with a vengeance in 2021, notably using ransomware attacks and hitting third-party vendors supplying services to hundreds or thousands of companies, organizations and government offices.
“We’ve always known that the downward trend in data compromises we’d seen for the past few years would stop,” Lee said. “What we didn’t really expect to see was such as dramatic reversal that will take us from a five-year low to what looks to be an all-time high by the end of the year in just a matter of months.”
In the first half of this year, 846 data breaches were publicly reported in the U.S., affecting nearly 119 million individuals, according to the report. Second-quarter breaches increased by 38 percent compared to the first quarter, and if they continue at that rate they will exceed the 2017 total.
The numbers do not include data leak incidents involving Facebook and LinkedIn, which together exposed more than 1 billion individuals’ information this year.
Facebook said in an April blog that the data posted online was scraped from profiles in 2019 using a now-defunct Facebook feature. LinkedIn said information posted for sale online was not a breach of “private” data but was “scraped from LinkedIn and other various websites,” according to a June 29 news release from the company.
A Dayton Daily News investigation in June found that inadequate cybersecurity measures are common and experts say that the lack of mandatory reporting of cyber-intrusions hinders the ability to fight them. The investigation also found that new hacking opportunities opened during the COVID-19 pandemic as many employees worked from home, sometimes on computers that were not secure, and those workers were particularly vulnerable to hacks via email attacks known as phishing.
“More than a few people’s home machines aren’t quite up to snuff, as you may imagine,” said David Salisbury, director of the University of Dayton Center for Cybersecurity and Data Intelligence. “The threat surface just keeps growing. All the devices that attach to the internet, they create new threat surfaces.”
A July 2 supply chain ransomware attack on Ireland-based security software provider Kaseya followed multimillion-dollar ransomware attacks on meatpacking company JBS and Colonial Pipeline Co. All are believed to be launched by criminals based in or near Russia. Last year a supply chain attack on SolarWinds, a Texas technology firm, led to breached data at multiple companies and government offices but no ransom demands and is believed to be the work of Russian spies.
“We are seeing a shift with the increase in data breaches in 2021 compared to 2020, primarily because of the growing number of phishing attacks, ransomware attacks and supply chain attacks,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the resource center.
|Compromised data - 2021|| || |
|Publicly reported data breaches, exposures and leaks are on the rise in the U.S.|| || |
|Month||Data compromise incident||Individuals impacted|
|January||100|| 7,214,985 |
|February||111|| 35,313,405 |
|March||144|| 23,309,513 |
|April||151|| 25,443,298 |
|May||137|| 20,657,152 |
|June||203|| 6,750,974 |
|Total||846|| 118,689,327 |
|Note: Does not include Facebook and LinkedIn incidents involving "scraped" data posted online that impacted more than 1 billion individuals.|| || |
|Source: Identity Theft Resource Center|| |
Data compromises in the professional services and the manufacturing and utilities sectors increased significantly this year while health care and retail data compromises declined, the report said.
“This dynamic reflects the broader trend of cybercriminals shifting their attacks to critical infrastructure entities that are too important to remain idle, and targets with less robust cybersecurity protections in hopes of securing larger ransomware payments,” according to the resource center news release.
Velasquez said there continues to be a decline in the number of individuals impacted. With so much individual data already compromised over the years, there is a shift away from mass intrusions seeking consumer information and toward attacks targeting businesses using individuals’ stolen logins and passwords.
There are more than 15 billion credentials are available for sale in underground markets, according to the center’s 2020 Data Breach Report.
“While it is discouraging to see the number of compromises up, it is encouraging that we could see the fewest number of people impacted in seven years,” Velasquez said. “Criminals continue to exploit organizations of all sizes through single points-of-attack, making good cyber-hygiene practices more important than ever.”
|Cybersecurity best practices|
|Employee cybersecurity awareness training|
|Install firewall and anti-virus software|
|Replace equipment and software that is out-of-date|
|Install security patches and updates immediately|
|Do frequent and duplicative backups|
|Have a written cyberattack response plan |
|Install virtual private network |
|Scan emails before they go to employees|
|Change passwords frequently|
|Use multi-factor authentication|
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